Under a stained glass rose window in the Chartres Cathedral in France are four other colourful windows. They show the four New Testament evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) sitting on the shoulders of the four major prophets of the Hebrew Bible (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel).
In a 1675 letter Isaac Newton wrote: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in The Friend (1828), wrote: “The dwarf sees farther than the giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on.”
These three examples acknowledge that few of us can attribute our successes solely to our own efforts.
The evangelists took what they were given from Old Testament prophecy and helped form a movement that would change the world. Newton took what he was given, triggered the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century and changed the world. Coleridge helped found the Romantic Movement in England and changed our poetic hearts.
It is possible for everyone to be a giant in their own world, particularly in our families and it all begins with the legacy of those who have gone before us and then honouring these gifts by paying them forward and improving on them.
The COVID-19 pandemic is taking its toll on the world, and we are being emotionally and economically stretched. Now, more than ever, is an opportunity to be giants.
You may be wondering how any of this fits into your financial plans, right? At the end of the day, the finances are just a tool – what I’m diving into is the “why” behind our plans, especially this time of year.
So how do we each show up as “giants” on whose shoulders others can stand upon? Here are a few tips:
Turn obstacles into progress.
Most human progress has been borne out of obstacles and even tragedy.
More than six years ago, we lost my dad, and our children lost their “Opa.” In our grieving, one word always surfaced: “gratitude.” We looked for an opportunity to honour my dad’s kindness and found it by getting involved in The Richmond Christmas Fund, a program of Richmond Cares Richmond Gives. The experience brought our family closer together, honoured those that went before us and ultimately helped a lot of families who need our kindness more than ever.
We need to continually mine the obstacles in our lives for opportunities to grow from the experiences.
Stop trying to reinvent ourselves.
We have all been given legacies through many generations of our own families. Not all those legacies are perfect though, so we need to dig deep for the valuable lessons embedded there and to honour them. The greatest gifts bestowed on mankind were not original ideas, but rather improvements on ideas infused with a new perspective.
What experiences and legacies have we been given that can help others?
It all starts with family.
The greatest impact we can hope for lies through the lives of those closest to us – our family.
I recently read a copy of “Willing Wisdom – 7 Questions Successful Families Ask” by Thomas W. Deans, PhD. In it, the author demonstrates that the greatest way we can build on the values and goals of our “giants” is through a regular family meeting where we involve those we love into a conversation about our goals. That conversation will create a more purposeful framework for our family legacy.
Our wish for all this Christmas season is that we embrace the joy of family and friends and help each other become the giants that this world needs in the New Year and beyond.